SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD

In the ancient world there were seven great man-made structures for travelers to see on a world tour. Lists of the so-called seven wonders of the world sometimes varied. The following list, dating from about the 6th century AD, was a commonly used and standard one: (1) the pyramids of Egypt; (2) the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; (3) the statue of Zeus at Olympia; (4) the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus; (5) the temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus; (6) the Colossus of Rhodes; and (7) the Pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria.

The great pyramids of Egypt still stand. They were built between 2650 and 2500 BC. Except for parts of the Mausoleum and of the temple of Artemis, they are the only one of the seven ancient wonders still standing.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon have long since disappeared. They were said to have been built by King Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century BC to please and console his favorite wife, Amytis. Great terraces of masonry were built one on top of the other. On these were planted gardens of tropical flowers and trees and avenues of palms. They were irrigated by water pumped from the Euphrates River. Nebuchadnezzar and his queen could sit in the shade and look down upon the beauties of the city. The walls of Babylon were often included with the Hanging Gardens among the wonders of Babylon. Built by Nebuchadnezzar, they were faced with glazed tile and pierced by openings fitted with magnificent brass gates.

The statue of Olympian Zeus was erected at Olympia, in the Peloponnesus of Greece, by the great sculptor Phidias in the 5th century BC. It was a towering structure of ivory and gold, 40 feet high, majestic and beautiful.

After about 10 centuries of existence the statue was destroyed. Our only idea of it is gained from coins of Elis, which are thought to bear copies of the original

Greek colonists at Ephesus, in Asia Minor, built the famous temple of Artemis. The early settlers found the Asian inhabitants worshiping a many-breasted nature goddess whom they identified with their Artemis (called Diana by the Romans). They raised a shrine to her, which was rebuilt and enlarged from time to time. The fourth temple was the one regarded as the wonder of the world. Dedicated about 430 BC, it is said to have been built by contributions from all the great cities of Asia and to have taken 120 years to complete. This great temple was set on fire in 356 BC on the night Alexander the Great was born, according to tradition. The crime was committed by one Herostratus merely that his name might be remembered in after ages.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, also in Asia Minor, derived its name from King Mausolus of Caria. After his death in the middle of the 4th century BC, his queen, Artemisia, employed Greek architects to construct a superb monument over his remains. It was a great rectangular pile of masonry, surmounted by an Ionic colonnade supporting a rooflike pyramid. At the apex stood a four-horse chariot in which were statues of the king and queen. So famous was this structure that the word mausoleum came to be applied to any monumental tomb. Some relics of the original Mausoleum are preserved in the British Museum.

The Colossus of Rhodes was a great bronze statue, erected in about 280 BC by the citizens of Rhodes, capital of the Greek island of the same name. It represented their sun-god Helios and was said to be 105 feet high. According to legend, it straddled the harbor entrance, but it is more likely that it stood to one side. The statue was overthrown by an earthquake in 224 BC but its huge fragments long were regarded with wonder. Nearly a thousand years later, in AD 656, a Muslim dealer bought the fragments as old metal and carried them away to be melted down.

The Pharos of Alexandria, in Egypt, was the forerunner of modern lighthouses. The name belonged originally to an island lying off the coast. When Alexander the Great laid out the city he connected the island of Pharos with the mainland by means of a mole, or causeway.

On the eastern point of the island his successors, Ptolemy I and Ptolemy II, erected a great lighthouse made of white marble. It was this structure, said to have been 400 feet high, that came to be known as the Pharos of Alexandria.

Modern Wonders

To ancient and medieval people the number seven had a mystical significance. Accordingly they were much given to compiling lists involving this number--the seven wonders, the seven champions of Christendom, the seven seas, and so on. Some of this significance still clings to the number seven, and people continue the harmless pastime of compiling lists of the seven wonders of the world.

The wonders of the modern world lie not so much in architecture and sculpture as they do in technology. A list of seven modern wonders compiled after World War I included: (1) radio; (2) the telephone; (3) the airplane; (4) radium; (5) anesthetics and antitoxins; (6) spectrum analysis; and (7) X rays. The list seems deficient. It fails to include the automobile, which revolutionized ways of living in the United States, and the techniques of mass production, which made modern industry possible. A list today would undoubtedly include television, atomic energy, and artificial satellites as modern wonders.

Back to Main menu

A project by History World International

World History Center